Posts Tagged Harvard

Harvard and I

A few people have asked me just what connection I’ve had to Harvard, since I have many affiliations, so I thought I’d set the record straight.

I was a Senior Fellow at the Olin Institute for Strategic Studies, Weatherhead Center, from 2007 through 2009. I founded and co-convened a group weblog, Middle East Strategy at Harvard (MESH), which I edited intensively (and with minimal controversy) for two years. In mid-2009, the Olin Institute folded, and in December, we put the website to sleep, as I had assumed another weighty commitment. I promised to explore options for handing off the site, and accepted a lesser affiliation, that of Visiting Scholar—a status reserved for persons who hold their primary appointments elsewhere. I spent my last period in residence at Harvard in November, and I cleared out my office when I left.

So this controversy erupted during my exit from Harvard, and it seems to me unfair that my critics have burdened the Weatherhead Center with responsibility for opinions I’ve expressed since I left, far away from Cambridge. Even so, defending my affiliation is a stand the Weatherhead Center chose to take, and it did so without consulting me—not only or even primarily on my behalf, I presume, but on behalf of the hundreds of Center affiliates whose views might, at some moment, deviate from what someone thinks is correct. And while the affiliation no longer serves my practical purposes (and I would feel a lot freer to reply to my critics without it), resigning it would damage the cause of academic freedom.

I welcome criticism of my ideas. I despise criticism of the principles of academic freedom on which Harvard rests.

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    WCFIA at Harvard: accusations are baseless

    The following statement has been issued by the directors of the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs (WCFIA) at Harvard:

    Over the past several days, we have heard from several members of the public, and of the Harvard community, who object to the statements of Martin Kramer at a recent conference. Kramer is a Visiting Scholar at the National Security Studies Program, which is a program of the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs (WCFIA). (Kramer is not, contrary to the understanding of some of our correspondents, an employee of the Center or of Harvard University.) Many of those who have written us have called upon the Center to dissociate itself from Kramer’s remarks, or to end his affiliation with the Center.

    The WCFIA has many hundreds of affiliates: faculty members, graduate students, undergraduates, post-docs, visiting scholars and others. They represent the widest possible range of opinion on almost every subject. The Center takes no position on any issue of scholarship or public policy, nor does it attempt to monitor or control the activities of its affiliates.

    Accusations have been made that Martin Kramer’s statements are genocidal. These accusations are baseless. Kramer’s statements, available at http://www.martinkramer.org/sandbox/2010/02/superfluous-young-men/, express dismay with the policy of agencies that provide aid to Palestinian refugees, and that tie aid entitlements to the size of refugee families. Kramer argues that this policy encourages population growth among refugee communities. While these views may be controversial, there is no way they can be regarded as genocidal.

    Those who have called upon the Weatherhead Center to dissociate itself from Kramer’s views, or to end Kramer’s affiliation with the Center, appear not to understand the role of controversy in an academic setting. It would be inappropriate for the Weatherhead Center to pass judgement on the personal political views of any of its affiliates, or to make affiliation contingent upon some political criterion. Exception may be made for statements that go beyond the boundaries of protected speech, but there is no sense in which Kramer’s remarks could be considered to fall into this category. The Weatherhead Center’s activities are based upon a firm belief that scholars must be free to state their views, and rejects any attempts to restrict this fundamental academic freedom.

    Beth Simmons, Director, Weatherhead Center for International Affairs (on leave 2009-2010)

    Jeffry Frieden, Acting Director, Weatherhead Center for International Affairs (Fall 2009)

    James Robinson, Acting Director, Weatherhead Center for International Affairs (Spring 2010)

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      Smear intifada

      Electronic Intifada, a death-to-Israel website run by Ali Abunimah (pictured right), says that in my Herzliya Conference speech, which I posted two weeks ago, I “called for ‘the West’ to take measures to curb the births of Palestinians, a proposal that appears to meet the international legal definition of a call for genocide.” According to the site, “Kramer proposed that the number of Palestinian children born in the Gaza Strip should be deliberately curbed, and alleged that this would ‘happen faster if the West stops providing pro-natal subsidies to Palestinians with refugee status.'” The usual suspects, Philip Weiss and M.J. Rosenberg, have jumped on the bandwagon. Being accused of advocating genocide by people who daily call for Israel to be wiped off the map of the Middle East is rich.

      In my speech, I made no such “proposal.” The full quote:

      Aging populations reject radical agendas, and the Middle East is no different. Now eventually, this will happen among the Palestinians too, but it will happen faster if the West stops providing pro-natal subsidies for Palestinians with refugee status. Those subsidies are one reason why, in the ten years from 1997 to 2007, Gaza’s population grew by an astonishing 40 percent. At that rate, Gaza’s population will double by 2030, to three million. Israel’s present sanctions on Gaza have a political aim—undermine the Hamas regime—but if they also break Gaza’s runaway population growth—and there is some evidence that they have—that might begin to crack the culture of martyrdom which demands a constant supply of superfluous young men. That is rising to the real challenge of radical indoctrination, and treating it at its root.

      I didn’t propose that Israel take a single additional measure beyond the sanctions it now imposes with the political aim of undermining Hamas. And I didn’t call on the West to “deliberately curb the births of Palestinians.” I called on it to desist from deliberately encouraging births through pro-natal subsidies for Palestinian “refugees,” which guarantee that Gazans will remain both radicalized and dependent. The Electronic Intifada claims that “neither the UN, nor any other agencies, provide Palestinians with specifically ‘pro-natal subsidies.'” This is a lie: UNWRA assures that every child with “refugee” status will be fed and schooled regardless of the parents’ own resources, and mandates that this “refugee” status be passed from generation to generation in perpetuity. Anywhere in the world, that would be called a deliberate pro-natal policy. Electronic Intifada: “Kramer appeared to be equating any humanitarian assistance at all with inducement for Palestinians to reproduce.” Appears to whom? A pro-natal subsidy is a national or international promise to support the yet-unborn, not humanitarian assistance to the living. The pro-natal subsidy in Gaza is the unlimited promise of hereditary “refugee” status to future generations.

      (Stopping pro-natal subsidies isn’t an original idea, and I credit Gunnar Heinsohn for making a much more detailed case for it, in his January 2009 Wall Street Journal Europe article, “Ending the West’s Proxy War Against Israel: Stop funding a Palestinian youth bulge, and the fighting will stop too.” He also coined the phrase “superfluous young men.”)

      Of course, Palestinian extremists and their sympathizers are quick to throw the “genocide” charge against Israel, and so are some Israelis. The late Tanya Reinhart once accused Israel of “slow genocide” against the Palestinians—which, if it were Israel’s policy, must be counted its most dismal failure, since population and life expectancy in the West Bank and Gaza have grown by an astonishing rate since 1967. The rise didn’t all result from Western subsidies (Heinsohn calls them “unlimited welfare”), and employment of Palestinians in Israel played a crucial role as well. But now the responsibility lies primarily with the West. I will leave the final word to Heinsohn (who, by the way, heads an institute for comparative genocide research):

      As long as we continue to subsidize Gaza’s extreme demographic armament, young Palestinians will likely continue killing their brothers or neighbors. And yet, despite claiming that it wants to bring peace to the region, the West continues to make the population explosion in Gaza worse every year. By generously supporting UNRWA’s budget, the West assists a rate of population increase that is 10 times higher than in their own countries. Much is being said about Iran waging a proxy war against Israel by supporting Hezbollah and Hamas. One may argue that by fueling Gaza’s untenable population explosion, the West unintentionally finances a war by proxy against the Jews of Israel.

      If we seriously want to avoid another generation of war in Gaza, we must have the courage to tell the Gazans that they will have to start looking after their children themselves, without UNRWA’s help.

      Overnight addendum: I’m amused by my sudden overnight promotion to Harvard preeminence (by bloggers—why not?), but I have to disappoint. I’m not a “Harvard prof” (Rosenberg) or a “distinguished Harvard professor” (Richard Silverstein). My own homepage records that I’m presently a visiting scholar at Harvard’s Weatherhead Center (in the National Security Studies Program). The purpose of visitorships is to facilitate joint research between Weatherhead faculty and non-Harvard colleagues; a visiting scholar must hold a regular academic appointment somewhere else. I enjoy my Harvard research and library privileges. But I’ve never taught at Harvard, I’m not there now, and I don’t use the Harvard affiliation as an identifier on this Sandbox blog. For that, I rely solely on my permanent affiliations. So my rapid promotion at Harvard is really just a stunt by demagogues to attract attention, and the wild exaggeration is of a piece with all they produce. (Still, it was flattering…)

      Further update: The directors of the Weatherhead Center at Harvard: “Accusations have been made that Martin Kramer’s statements are genocidal. These accusations are baseless.” Full text here.

      More commentary:  Harvard Crimson editorial:

      The blogosphere clearly overreacted in perpetuating the genocide meme created by Electronic Intifada and others. While the 1948 U.N. Convention does delineate “measures intended to prevent births” as a form of genocide, Kramer was not advocating an ethnic cleansing of Gaza’s citizens, but rather a shift in the average age of their population with the intention of, in his opinion, benefiting them in the long run. Considering the content of Kramer’s speech, labeling his policy as “genocide” is unfair, and steers the debate away from his actual argument.

      Although we disagree with Kramer’s politics, creating a thriving marketplace of ideas among academic Fellows at Harvard can only benefit the University as a whole. Indeed, a major goal of the Weatherhead Center is to promote “vigorous, sustained intellectual dialogue” within the Harvard community, and a diverse view like Kramer’s will certainly foster the sort of debate the center seeks to promote. Although we question Kramer’s judgment, we refrain from questioning his continued presence at the Center and the legality of his statement in light of the U.N. Convention on Genocide. We encourage the blogosphere to follow suit.

      Article by Jeremy Patashnik in the Harvard Political Review: 

      Kramer’s remarks were not softly worded, and there are plenty of good reasons to reject his conclusions, but to call his proposal genocidal is, quite simply, absurd. This is not merely a semantic question of hyperbole gone awry. When M.J. Rosenberg, and others, label legitimate ideas as morally repugnant without rationally refuting them, it creates an environment of hyper-political correctness where people become afraid to share new–sometimes controversial–ideas for fear of being branded “radicals”…

      It’s good that Kramer’s remarks have caused controversy. If people disagree with him, they ought to make their opinions known, and Kramer should, in turn, defend the ideas he put forth. Much of what Kramer said deserves to be rejected, but there are also parts that can contribute to the ongoing dialogue on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Perhaps ending pro-natal subsidies is morally unpalatable, but that doesn’t mean a discussion of how Palestinian population growth affects the conflict shouldn’t enter into the picture. Rosenberg does this important topic a disservice by irrationally branding ideas he doesn’t like “genocide.” Political correctness serves its role in society, but when it’s taken too far, it inhibits creative thinking.

       

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        More Massad mystery at Harvard

        In August 2006, I wrote a post entitled “Massad mystery at Harvard.” There I asked why, for two years, Joseph Massad described his book Desiring Arabs as “forthcoming from Harvard University Press,” only to announce that it would be published by the University of Chicago Press. I wrote the following:

        Last spring [2006], Columbia promoted Massad to associate professor, a rank from which he could be tenured. Did the list of publications he submitted include Desiring Arabs as forthcoming from Harvard? If so, on what basis? What went wrong for Massad at Harvard University Press?…

        Since Massad paraded the Harvard credential when he needed it, he should explain why it’s evaporated. And if the elusive book figured in Columbia’s promotion decision, the university should investigate Massad’s conduct—again.

        So did Columbia ever look into that Harvard mystery? Massad himself (perhaps in response to my post) gave his explanation in the acknowledgments to Desiring Arabs (pp. xiii-xiv). It turns out that it hinges on Edward Said:

        Edward [Said] read drafts of three chapters of the book…. [During] the conference celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary of Orientalism in April 2003, he asked me if I would be interested in publishing the book in his Harvard University Press (HUP) series. I was in disbelief of this unexpected praise. I prepared a proposal quickly and sent it to him and then forwarded it to the HUP editor. The HUP approved the contract for the book several months later, in September—two weeks before Edward’s death…. He called me on his cellular phone from the car while on his way home from yet another chemotherapy treatment at the hospital. “Any word from Harvard?” he asked. I told him that I had just heard half an hour earlier. He was thrilled. I was ecstatic.

        Unfortunately, a few weeks before production was set to begin, the HUP editor and I realized that we had differing visions for the book, and we parted ways.

        So the mystery has begun to unravel. “Forthcoming from Harvard University Press” was yet another Columbia inside job. At the time, Edward Said was the general editor of an HUP book series entitled Convergences. HUP apparently accepted Massad’s book provisionally for publication in Said’s series, on the basis of the proposal and Said’s reading of a few chapters. But after HUP had the complete manuscript—and Said was no longer editor of the series—its own editor rejected Massad’s finished product. (“We parted ways” is an amusing euphemism.) Presumably, this decision would have been based, at least in part, upon readers’ reports on the completed manuscript. (At university presses, anonymous peer review is a precondition of publication. All books accepted as proposals still must be vetted.)

        The president and trustees of Columbia University, if they haven’t already approved Massad’s tenure, might well bear HUP’s decision in mind. Absent Edward Said, Massad must be judged strictly on his own merit. And they might take some interest in precisely why Massad’s book failed to make the cut at Harvard. “My books are not controversial at all in academe,” Massad recently steamed in a tirade against a critic of Desiring Arabs, “and [to] the extent that I am said to be ‘controversial’ at all, I am so for the New York tabloid press and for Campus Watch, and now for some right-wing gay newspapers upset with my book.” Well, at Harvard University Press, they were less than impressed.

        Footnote: The latest on Massad’s book comes from Dror Ze’evi in the American Historical Review. Ze’evi is the author of Producing Desire: Changing Sexual Discourse in the Ottoman Middle East, 1500-1900 (University of California Press). Money quote: “If Massad’s evidence is to be trusted, then he is completely wrong in his conclusions.” But move on, folks, no controversy here—at all.

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          Speaking truth to Power

          Samantha Power is the author of a Pulitzer Prize-winning book on genocide, and she has a professorship at Harvard (in something called “Global Leadership and Public Policy”). She is also a senior foreign policy adviser to Barack Obama. This isn’t an honorific: she has worked for Obama in Washington, she has campaigned for him around the country, and she doesn’t hesitate to speak for him. This morning, the Washington Post has a piece on Obama’s foreign policy team, identifying her (and retired Maj. Gen. Scott Garion) as “closest to Obama, part of a group-within-the-group that he regularly turns to for advice.” Power and Garion “retain unlimited access to Obama.” This morning’s New York Times announces that Power has an “irresistable profile” and “she could very well end up in [Obama's] cabinet.”

          She also has a problem: a corpus of critical statements about Israel. These have been parsed by Noah Pollak at Commentary’s blog Contentions, by Ed Lasky and Richard Baehr at American Thinker, and by Paul Mirengoff at Power Line.

          Power made her most problematic statement in 2002, in an interview she gave at Berkeley. The interviewer asked her this question:

          Let me give you a thought experiment here, and it is the following: without addressing the Palestine-Israel problem, let’s say you were an advisor to the President of the United States, how would you respond to current events there? Would you advise him to put a structure in place to monitor that situation, at least if one party or another [starts] looking like they might be moving toward genocide?

          Power gave an astonishing answer:

          What we don’t need is some kind of early warning mechanism there, what we need is a willingness to put something on the line in helping the situation. Putting something on the line might mean alienating a domestic constituency of tremendous political and financial import; it may more crucially mean sacrificing—or investing, I think, more than sacrificing—billions of dollars, not in servicing Israel’s military, but actually investing in the new state of Palestine, in investing the billions of dollars it would probably take, also, to support what will have to be a mammoth protection force, not of the old Rwanda kind, but a meaningful military presence. Because it seems to me at this stage (and this is true of actual genocides as well, and not just major human rights abuses, which were seen there), you have to go in as if you’re serious, you have to put something on the line.

          Unfortunately, imposition of a solution on unwilling parties is dreadful. It’s a terrible thing to do, it’s fundamentally undemocratic. But, sadly, we don’t just have a democracy here either, we have a liberal democracy. There are certain sets of principles that guide our policy, or that are meant to, anyway. It’s essential that some set of principles becomes the benchmark, rather than a deference to [leaders] who are fundamentally politically destined to destroy the lives of their own people. And by that I mean what Tom Friedman has called “Sharafat” [Sharon-Arafat]. I do think in that sense, both political leaders have been dreadfully irresponsible. And, unfortunately, it does require external intervention…. Any intervention is going to come under fierce criticism. But we have to think about lesser evils, especially when the human stakes are becoming ever more pronounced.

          It isn’t too difficult to see all the red flags in this answer. Having placed Israel’s leader on par with Yasser Arafat, she called for massive military intervention on behalf of the Palestinians, to impose a solution in defiance of Israel and its American supporters. Billions of dollars would be shifted from Israel’s security to the upkeep of a “mammoth protection force” and a Palestinian state—all in the name of our “principles.”

          This quote has dogged Power, and she has gone to extraordinary lengths to put it behind her. Most notably, she called in the Washington correspondent of the Israeli daily Haaretz, Shmuel Rosner, to whom she disavowed the quote:

          Power herself recognizes that the statement is problematic. “Even I don’t understand it,” she says. And also: “This makes no sense to me.” And furthermore: “The quote seems so weird.” She thinks that she made this statement in the context of discussing the deployment of international peacekeepers. But this was a very long time ago, circumstances were different, and it’s hard for her to reconstruct exactly what she meant.

          It must be awful, at such a young age, to lose track of why you recommended the massive deployment of military force, and not that long ago. So let me help Samantha Power: I can reconstruct exactly what she meant.

          Power gave the interview on April 29, 2002. This was the tail end of Israel’s Operation Defensive Shield, Israel’s offensive into the West Bank in reaction to a relentless campaign of Palestinian suicide bombings that had killed Israeli civilians in the hundreds. The military operation included the clearing of terrorists from the West Bank city of Jenin (April 3-19). At the time, Palestinian spokespersons had duped much of the international media and human rights community into believing that a massacre of innocent Palestinians had taken place in Jenin. It had not, but the name of Israel had been smeared, particularly in academe. At Harvard, pro-Palestinian activists canvassed the faculty for support of a petition calling on Harvard to divest from Israel. (It was published on May 6.)

          Power at the time was executive director of Harvard’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, which she founded in 1999. In 2001, she had recruited a celebrity director for the Carr Center: Michael Ignatieff, a Canadian intellectual and journalist who, like herself, had come to prominence writing about atrocities in the Balkans and Africa. A profile of Ignatieff in March 2002 described the division of labor in the Carr Center: “He shares administrative responsibilities with Samantha Power, the center’s executive director. The division of labor works wonderfully, he says: ‘She does all the work.'” Power later told a Canadian journalist that “their social relationship was based on three Bs: baseball, bottles and boys. They talked about the Boston Red Sox, of whom she is a fanatic supporter; they spent evenings together ‘yelling and laughing’ over bottles of wine, and she found him a kind and sympathetic confidant when it came to affairs of the heart.”

          The Carr Center under this management team generally steered clear of the Middle East. But in that spring of 2002, the pressure to come up with something was very great. Ignatieff, who had been to the Middle East a few times, took the lead. On April 19, 2002, only ten days before Power emitted her “weird” quote, Ignatieff published an op-ed in the London Guardian, under this headline: “Why Bush Must Send in His Troops.” I wrote a thorough critique of this piece over five years ago, so I won’t repeat my dissection of its flaws. As I showed then, the op-ed includes every trendy calumny against Israel.

          More relevant now are Ignatieff’s policy conclusions. “Neither side is capable of making peace,” he determined, “or even sitting in the same room to discuss it.” The United States should therefore move “to impose a two-state solution now.”

          The time for endless negotiation between the parties is past: it is time to say that all but those settlements right on the 1967 green line must go; that the right of return is incompatible with peace and security in the region and the right must be extinguished with a cash settlement; that the UN, with funding from Europe, will establish a transitional administration to help the Palestinian state back on its feet and then prepare the ground for new elections before exiting; and, most of all, the US must then commit its own troops, and those of willing allies, not to police a ceasefire, but to enforce the solution that provides security for both populations.

          Ignatieff ended with a grand flourish:

          Imposing a peace of this amplitude on both parties, and committing the troops to back it up, would be the most dramatic exercise of presidential leadership since the Cuban missile crisis. Nothing less dramatic than this will prevent the Middle East from descending into an inferno.

          So this was the thrilling idea that swept the Carr Center that April: a “dramatic exercise of presidential leadership,” through a commitment of U.S. troops to impose and enforce a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Middle East would be saved. The “amplitude” of this notion made divestment seem small-minded. Samantha Power did not misspeak ten days later in her Berkeley interview. She was retailing a vision she shared with her closest colleague. Power went a bit further than Ignatieff, when she spoke about how this show of presidential courage “might mean alienating a domestic constituency of tremendous political and financial import.” Ignatieff would never have written that. But it was implicit in his text anyway.

          So Ignatieff’s op-ed was exactly what Power meant. That she should claim no recollection of any of this context seems… weird. Or perhaps not. Remember, Ignatieff wasn’t talking about deploying “international peacekeepers,” the context Power now suggests for her words. He specifically proposed United States troops, followed by anyone else who was “willing.” Their job wouldn’t be to keep the peace, but to “enforce the solution.” Far better today for Power to have some kind of blackout, than to tell the truth about the “dramatic exercise” she and Ignatieff envisioned.

          (“Iggy,” by the way, left Harvard in 2005 to plunge into Canadian politics, and he is now deputy leader of Canada’s opposition Liberal Party. He still has strong views on what Americans should do. “I’ve worn my heart on my sleeve for a year,” he recently announced. “I’m for Obama.”)

          Is there a conclusion to be drawn from this genealogy of a truly bad policy idea? Ignatieff himself may have hit on it. Last year he published a reflection on what he’d learned since experiencing real (as opposed to academic) politics. “As a former denizen of Harvard,” he wrote, “I’ve had to learn that a sense of reality doesn’t always flourish in elite institutions. It is the street virtue par excellence. Bus drivers can display a shrewder grasp of what’s what than Nobel Prize winners.”

          Just substitute Pulitzer for Nobel.

          Update: The Israel-relevant segment of the Power interview is now on YouTube.

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